Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   April 2, 2020
Art in the Age of Corona

Nice Surprise

Home delivery?! Now, the calm and comfort we feel from living in a small and caring community is complete. What a surprise to find the MJ in the driveway this morning along with the Times and WSJ. From a distance, I assumed we’d received some junk publication, but instead I found our more-valuable-than-ever local newspaper. While we expect that your thoughtful and labor-intensive action is temporary until we emerge to the other side of this public health crisis, we truly appreciate your ultimate gesture in customer care.

P.S. Can’t wait to read the article on Debbie Ousey of Montecito Coffee Shop – our favorite place for breakfast!

Diane and Garrett Graham

Hard Times… Not the Movie

As of this writing, our 450,000-person County had 64 positive Corona tests, with 47 of these folks recovering at home and six patients being hospitalized. In the face of this public health and economic disaster, our $1B County was quick to lament the $3M hit to their size-mysterious General Fund, while lauding the idea that cannabis – which “contributed” $2.8M last quarter – was recession proof. This was gross revenue and didn’t include the deep costs against it, i.e. Cannabis is not the panacea for either the Corona respiratory virus or our economy.

Anyway, with global equities down 40%, gun sales surging (scary stuff), and 78% of American adults living paycheck-to-paycheck, we have much greater problems to concern ourselves with during this phase of State and County imposed Martial law.

Eighty percent of County revenue derives from property taxes. When asked if property owners could expect an IRS-like reprieve our Tax Collector said: “If someone is affected adversely because of COVID-19 and it’s out of their control (huh?), obviously, I’m prepared to cancel the penalty.” Is this County so brain-soft that they don’t understand that ALL OF US are affected by Corona? When County-pols speak, it is more frightening than the virus itself and believe you me, I’m no Corona naysayer.

Prior to COVID-19 our $1T national debt was the largest in history at 105% of GDP. Assuming modest/individual federal help, it will be dangerously unprecedented – in excess of $3T. The risk may be worth it if we can begin having honest discussions about our local economy where $1 spent will cycle 5X before leaving SB. Why is it that I can risk a trip to a crowded Costco, Office Max, a laundromat or a Cannabis store (“essential”), but I can’t shop at a local boutique or bookstore? Or, how about purchasing a plant at my always empty local nursery rather than at Home Depot? If we don’t ask the questions, we could forever destroy our thinly capitalized local businesses – not hyperbole!

I’m not advocating “herd immunity” but as we “flatten the curve” to accommodate our unprepared healthcare system (what is THE COUNTY doing?) we also extend the curve – there needs to be some thoughtful moderation. In his NYT Op-ed and subsequent interviews, Dr. Katz (and others) has advocated just that. Perhaps a focus on individual risk and/or a store size-to-customer ratio, rather than what’s “essential”, is a better approach. Without data, we will never know. SB can’t impose authoritarian Martial law and then have their Public Health Office, Dr. Ansorg, say “it’s never our practice to share information.” Not sure he understands, but a global pandemic might be the exception to any past practice norms, just saying.

During times of great national crisis we have always persevered sometimes even spawning the “greatest” of generations. Without data, an understanding of “is this working” or a definition of “success,” this crisis will only bring questions and unrest. A few thoughtful residents are asking for just that – facts. In the end, I hope the information flows and that it fosters an honest discussion about how we can begin to slowly return to normalcy. We too can become a great generation, only time will tell if we will. Stay healthy!

Jeff Giordano
SB County Resident

What We Need Now

Life size cardboard cut outs of your family and celebrities to keep you company while in solitary (Lonely Guy). Inflatable dolls for physical comfort and pleasure. Punching bags with faces of your choice. Eyeglasses that allow you to see viruses. A necklace that kills all viruses around your head. A ring that will destroy all viruses on your hand and anything you touch. A room virus eliminator. A phone app that detects and reports to authorities everyone within one mile that has a temperature or looks sick. A phone app that will directly contact Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to send money whenever you need it. A phone app that lets you know as soon as an outbreak occurs anywhere in the world and reports, minute by minute, all infections, hospitalizations and deaths (Zip a Dee Do Dah or diabolical laugh optional sound). A phone app that tracks your mental state and will call your psychiatrist when you are extremely anxious and/or suicidal.

Old Man Steve

How Can We Help?

Hi and this is a question and/or for the letters… and hope for an answer either way.

What do we need to do to show support for our local businesses… at this time I’m thinking of the Montecito Coffee Shop and Debbie. We go there regularly on weekends and certainly want to help them continue serving our community.

What can I personally do?

Thanks in advance,

Jean von Wittenburg

Criminology and Covid-19

Covid-infused ire against Chinese Americans is as ironic as it is misplaced and lamentable. Countries in the Chinese cultural sphere do better at eating the bitter medicine of social distancing. Two traditions in Chinese culture contribute to this. One is that of reclusion. When events are not in accord with the Mandate of Heaven, retiring to the mountains for a life of self-cultivation becomes a most prestigious strategy. The other tradition is that of Legalist philosophy. Legalism helped shape a collection of warring states into a more unified political body, which became China. The philosophy can be summed up in the one sentence: “If there are no small crimes there will be no big crimes.” The idea is to nip things in the bud. In Singapore, whose judicial system draws both on Confucian and Legalist sources, one gets twenty years for spitting on the street. Singapore also displayed an impressively flat first-wave epidemiological curve. Taiwan and Hong Kong were able to tamp down their first-wave curves as well. For this one must be able to “eat bitter,” an ability the Chinese have long claimed that Americans lack. The war against any virus is two-pronged: Isolate it (by social distancing) and out tech it, through vaccine. In the first strategy all players are of equal value, as in the game of go (wei chi), wei chi our defensive chi, or immunity. The prerequisite for not passing a virus on is not to get it. The second strategy is more hierarchical, like chess, where players possess different values. The pharm lab that first makes a vaccine available is like a Queen in a chess game. Wars against viruses yo-yo back and forth between these two strategies. Social isolation buys time and flattens the curve so that medical systems do not become overburdened. During those precious days and months scientists are hard at it in the labs. Thus it is dangerous when influential politicians are not able to eat bitter. One could say they are not acting in accordance to the Mandate of Heaven. Time for all good Taoist poets to retire to the hills and cultivate what is innate. They may forget what Dynasty they are in, but they will know which wild greens to cook up after the Spring rains.

James N. Powell

Another Thorny Affair

I pounded on the Thorns a few weeks ago, but it amazed me when I read her letter about how we should all rally around the President. I agree, but wasn’t it this President who had a cavalier attitude when this crisis hit and now he wants us to go to Church on Easter?

Thomas Carlisle

Art in the Time of Corona


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